He’s the high schooler who finished his career on a high note with a state championship. He’s the budding engineer who garnered a perfect 4.0 GPA in the fall semester at Virginia Tech. He’s the low maintenance lefty who’s compiled a respectable 3.19 ERA in seven starts for the Hokies. He’s Ian Seymour, Virginia Tech’s freshman pitcher.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Seymour, however. In his junior year of high school, the Westborough, Massachusetts native didn’t pitch for the majority of the season with what he called a “precautionary move” to rest his arm after an injury.
The St. John’s Pioneers lost in the state tournament without Seymour having the opportunity to do any damage from the mound, instead only being able to contribute as a designated hitter.
“It’s definitely tough,” Seymour said. “You’re sitting there, wanting to help contribute to the team and you’re not able to. It’s part of the game and it’s something you have to learn from and learn to deal with.”
The disappointment of that result lit a proverbial fire in Seymour. He came back his senior year and dominated on the mound, going 4-0 with a 0.48 ERA. His best pitching performance, though, was the five-out save he recorded in the Division 1A Super 8 State Championship to earn the prestigious state title for the Pioneers.
“That’s definitely something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life,” Seymour said. “I couldn’t have dreamed it happening any better than that. I got to get the last out of the championship game, and it was a lot of fun. That final stretch, like that final month after we got out of school, was one of the more fun times I’ve had in my life.”
The southpaw had committed to Virginia Tech before his junior year, but there was still a hiccup in the road. Coach Pat Mason, a Northeastern alumnus, used his ties to Massachusetts to recruit Seymour. Mason’s termination following the 2017 season threw a wrench in Seymour’s plan at first.
“When I learned that Coach Mason got fired, it was actually the day of my graduation,” Seymour said. “I got a call saying Coach Mason just got fired, and I had all these people at my house for a dinner. We just kind of put it off for that day. Once I found out that the Maryland coaches were being hired, that was perfect for me. They had a good track record. I was familiar with Coach Fecteau before that. I decided it was the best place for me and it was the place I wanted to go to from the beginning.”
Seymour came to Blacksburg in the fall and started to develop into a starting pitcher who the Virginia Tech coaching staff knew they could trust. Before any of the on-field success that Seymour has seen, he became mentally prepared for the grind of the college season that was ahead of him.
“The biggest change [from high school to college] is definitely the mental aspects,” Seymour said. “That’s something we work a lot on with Coach Szefc. We brought in Brian Cain (professional conditioning coach) for that weekend and worked on a lot of breathing routines, a lot of visualization stuff. That’s really the biggest difference between high school and college baseball. If it’s an 0-2 count in high school, you can throw a mistake pitch and you’ll strike the guy out still. Here, you have to be locked in on every single pitch and you have to execute it almost to perfection or else guys will hit it.
“We do shadow bullpens. Visualize an at bat or an inning or something like that and going through that without throwing the ball actually. We’ll do that to get mental preparation and to get a routine down for once I’m on the mound.”
The wiry lefty is second on the team with his 3.19 ERA, 42.1 innings pitched, and 51 strikeouts, only behind senior ace Connor Coward. Seymour is also tied with Coward for the most starts this year from the rubber, with seven apiece. The southpaw’s best start of the year came this past weekend when he held NC State, the ACC’s top offense, scoreless over 6.2 innings, striking out seven Wolfpack batters.
“He was awesome,” said coach John Szefc after the NC State game. “For a young guy to come out like that and give us a start like that in a day where we needed that start to have a chance to win this series. He seems like he just gets better and better every time he goes out there.”
Disregarding Seymour’s one start against Purdue, he’s given up three or fewer runs in every game. Since ACC play began, Seymour has been on another level. In fact, in four ACC starts, he’s tallied a 1.80 ERA and struck out 31 batters in 25.0 innings pitched.
“If you throw out the Purdue start, he’s been money,” Szefc said. “Every time he goes out there, he’s usually pitching past the fifth and giving you an opportunity to win. That’s all you can really ask for.”
So why hasn’t Seymour experienced many of the woes that true freshmen pitchers often face? A lot of it has to do with Seymour’s ability to get ahead of batters and limit free bases.
“It always starts with getting ahead in counts,” Seymour said. “The biggest thing that Coach Szefc preaches is get ahead and throw strikes. If you can get ahead with your fastball command, get ahead of batters, it puts a lot of pressure on them. Attacking batters makes them uncomfortable.”
Down the stretch, Szefc and Co. just want to see more of the same from Seymour as the program appears to be heading in the right direction.
“Talking to some of the older guys from years past, the culture has definitely changed,” Seymour said. “It’s definitely more positive, it’s definitely more go out and do your job every day. We’ve played well in a lot of the games, it’s just that they’re close one or two run games. Pretty soon we’ll turn that corner.”
The Hokies will be looking to turn that corner, and in the meantime, Seymour will continue to be the low maintenance lefty looking to do his job.